Welcome back to Cleveland Darkens!
Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth!
Urban arcane roleplaying using Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplay rules
The white hats have just put an end to the sixth of seven powerful demoniacs, Barnabas, Boss Creed’s coat-holder. Now they move on the man himself, before he has time to become alarmed about an undue period of waiting.
At the back of their minds, a clock is counting down to the time they must also stage a Tower Heist to retrieve a powerful artifact for the Bianchi family.
The white hats for this session:
Jon “Doc” Samedy, slight and stooped Haitian ex-medical intern with powers of Voudun in his coco macaque.
Victor “Vic” Creed, 6’6 ex-paratrooper, hideously scarred, built for combat.
Roosevelt “Arby” Brown, 5’7 slim and quick grifter, built for ducking and running away.
Steve “Cutter” Cutter, 6’ fast-handed boxer, built for fighting and smooth-talkin’ the ladies.
Scene: Hospital parking lot across from Ward Square
Theme: Across 110th Street
Doc has convinced the other White Hats that he needs at least a cursory look for wards or the like. They wait in or beside the big black sedan they commandeered after destroying the demon-vampire Barnabas.
Marie Emana squirms around uncomfortable beside Vic in back, and asks if anyone got a joint. Or at least a cigarette. Really, no? Well look in the glove-box then. The Cutter does so and somewhat to his surprise back behind where he dug out a pair of big leather gloves is a crumpled pack. He passes them back to Marie, she hauls out a lighter and lights up.
Scene: Around Ward Square
Theme: Soul Man
Doc limps up 34th to where a beat cop is supervising costumed brats crossing westward. As he gains the corner he’s joined by a small witch. With an unconvincing nose. The crossing light comes on and they cross. From behind him he hears a shrill woman hollering. Up ahead he can see, opposite the well-lit Ward building, that numbers of Community College students, in costume, have been drinking, and their partying is getting rowdy. But the beat cop is heard bawling out some ‘dumb broad’ for trying to cross against the lights, right under his nose!
Doc looks down at the little witch and shoos her gently back towards mommy. Mommy’s shrieks redouble as she sees the gimpy black pedophile on her daughter… but the little witch decides to be shoo’d like a good girl, and the beat cop doesn’t intervene, and the drunken students don’t cross over to Doc’s sidewalk.
On the north side of the Ward offices a ramp leads down to a big security gate, probably a roller affair, just as Arby predicted or recollected. There’s a security guard leaning against the concrete down there, trying not to catch the eye of any drunken student. He’s got a squarish thing beside him, maybe a wireless. Or walkie-talkie. Doc strolls on.
He turns left as he passes the office building itself, because this will be his best chance of getting a mystic drive-by reading. This brings him into view of Ward Square.
Immediately, Doc sees Ward Square has its share of Halloween revelers, some in costume some not, and to his surprise he realizes some of them are Purple Ribboners, maybe demonstrating or just packing up from one. The square is well-lit. Slightly distracted he pauses and scans more of the square… they got the fountain working, and hey, Cindy Channel of the Plain Dealer is sitting on the fountain’s edge, looking as though she’s enjoying the evening!
Scene: back at the sedan
Theme: Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing
At long last Doc stumps over from the parking lot entrance and reports.
“Weren’t no wards as I could see mon. We clear. Lot of to-do around the building! I got me ambushed by Cindy Channel and that creepy photographer! And Purple Ribboners in the square, and students Halloween party going on…”
“Cindy ambushed you?!? What did she do?” Cutter raps out urgently.
“On’y ask me some question or two… seems she hear about a lawsuit on the University, rumor they settle out of court…”
“Nothing about me???!”
“Oh, it is what it is man. But stay clear! You don’t want that woman be setting her teeth in you.”
After a little more discussion in the polished-leather-and-second-hand-smoke smell of the sedan’s interior, Arby dashes away and buys five masks off the partying students, and dashes back. Cutter meanwhile checks over the sedan’s trunk to make sure they have their full war-chest of supplies. As Arby slides in behind the wheel again, Cutter takes shotgun again, Marie snuggles up Doc’s lap again and they are ready to roll!
I am a little frustrated at this point. I litter the scene with a least three major aids to the office penetration, and the white hats seem bent on doing everything without scene-setting. They even plan to drive away and get masks somewhere, somehow. I charge a drama point and explain – rather ill-temperedly – that partying students in Halloween costumes are a source of masks.
It’s like when you describe a pitch-pine deadfall beside the cavern entrance, and the party decides to head back to the village to buy torches.
The purple ribboners and the reporter, I’m not so surprised about. Such is Cutter’s paranoia about Cindy he would rather risk a major battle than go that way.
Scene: underground parking, Ward Office
Theme: Move on up
The plan works perfectly. The security guard can’t see Arby through the dark-tint glass and almost genuflects as he buttons the gate and allows the sedan through unchallenged. But he radios through on the walkie-talkie to let someone know.
Inside, beside a service elevator there’s a large bin or skip. It will mask movement from sedan to elevator, from the security camera angle. Arby slides the sedan in expertly – it’s a dream to drive after any white hat wheels – and they hit the elevator.
It’s plenty large, maybe a dozen feet across and eight feet deep. A rank of buttons invites, but they’ve been knocked and worn by custodial duties and there are no numbers or names.
Cutter studies them. There’s a locked-off top one.
“Hand me you gadgets,” he demands. Arby would normally feel bound to try that himself, but his right hand is still numb from the near-electrocution. Cutter tries a couple and one likely key may as well have been made for the lock-off. The button jabs in and the elevator clanks up to the top floor, slowly.
They don masks and ready weapons. Cutter is wearing Richard Nixon’s face. He don’t feel bad about it.
[No-one else volunteers what their mask is, but the Nixon mask is so right for a raid I include it here.]
Scene: Top floor of the Ward Office building
Theme: Green Onions
It’s a well-polished linoleum floor, with fire-stop doors left and right. Maybe twenty feet either way. The elevator door clanks shut behind them. Arby pauses to listen. There’s maybe half a minute of dithering. Then the decision is taken out of his hands as the left-hand door opens and a shirt-sleeved, loose-tied office worker walks through. He looks very surprised!
He gets about as far as “hey what the…” when Vic flattens him, smashing his head against the wall.
“Let’s get that guy back in,” Cutter begins, when Arby hears sharp-tapping high heels and a shrill but muffled query, from off to the right.
A general exeunt left, at speed, is conducted and the door hushes heavily behind them. At front, Vic comes face-to-face with another office worker, this one wearing an eye shade. Vic throws himself across a desk and clobbers the dude. Then starts pounding on him when that doesn’t quite KO him.
Marie leaps up on the desk and screams in delight. Her hands start smoldering. Doc simmers her down as best he can.
Behind them the heels sound again, agitato and accelerando, and a well-dressed, well-coiffed secretary-type enters through the fire-stop door. Her eyes pop and she begins screaming, then Cutter clamps his big mitt across her face and muffles the scream.
[The office workers would be distracted by a noisy demonstration and the secretary sidelined by a well-known reporter. No big deal. I only get Vic to roll once to see if he gets a lot of extra levels on the punch; and get Cutter to roll a grapple to see if his muffling hold is effective. The other stuff is given.]
Leaving the two men severely beaten unconscious and the secretary gagged and bound they press on to the sanctum.
Scene: Boss Creed’s sanctum
Theme: Cold Sweat
This is where the shag pile starts in. There’s a magnificent-sized sofa angled against the near wall, a picture window – presumably – curtained off to the left, a vast heavy desk on the right with a large upright chair behind it, and a large heavy painting up behind that. Possibly of Boss Creed. A couple of much smaller chairs on the opposite wall. But they are scarce visible as the man himself looms, or protrudes, towards the entrance, as though he has roused himself slowly off the chair and come to investigate. Seeing a large Richard Nixon armed with a fire-axe heading his way he checks:
“Well, here’s a thing…”
Cutter glances back as best he can through the mask and Vic lines the M16 up. Cutter steps to one side and Vic fires the full clip!
Trouble is, Boss Creed dodges unbelievably fast and only a couple bullets tag him. The rest rip away the desk corner and part of the big painting. Cutter finds himself slammed into the soft shag carpet with Creed on top of him, seemingly about to bring his massive forehead down! Cutter is throwing everything he can into it: this monster is just as strong as he expected! He blocks the head-butt and counters with his own grapple.
Behind the lead pair there’s some confusion. Arby Doc and Marie aren’t even in the room when that goes down. Arby has Vic’s axe and slips it down by Vic, decides he can best help by getting in there, and slides in around the door frame and over by the sofa. Meanwhile Doc is mustering Marie forward. She giggles and slides ungracefully around Vic and across the heaving scrimmage, towards the desk. Cutter is unsurprised to learn she has not bothered with underwear.
Arby scans around the room for inspiration. The big desk is pretty clear, only a blotter, a desk-lamp and a doodad – one of those birds that keep dipping beak into a glass – on it.
Vic drops the M16, and its spare mag, grabs up the axe, and brings it down full-force on Boss Creed’s spine!
The axe head breaks off! And spins far across the room, pulling Vic off-balance slightly. Boss Creed’s body is solidified like steel and Cutter can’t move at all. Cutter can feel the shag-pile strands beginning to writhe and bite at him!
Then Marie screams and electricity arcs from the desk lamp, down through Marie and through the floor. And through Cutter! But he’s not seriously hurt and the strands stop biting him, and Creed is jolted out of the statis he’s set. Cutter once more starts getting a lock on his head.
Arby decides to ready the M16 and scrambles up the weapon and its spare. He only knows enough to switch mags, and manages it. He sidles around to the opposite side, levelling the gun.
Vic grabs up Cutter’s axe and sees his chance and brings it down on Creed’s back, and this time the head sinks deep! Creed bellows in rage and pain, but doesn’t relax his grip. Arby noses the M16 muzzle against Creed’s flank and pulls the trigger. The M16 leaps and most of the mag sprays up to the door-frame where Doc is standing. Doc throws himself to one side as he’s sprayed by plaster fragments and timber splinters. Many of them stick him right through his clothes.
Keeping his lock with one arm, Cutter raises his other hand and drives it into the gaping wound Vic just made. He grabs a handful of spine and kidney and rips it clear! Creed flops dying and Doc, blinking dust out of his eyes, opens the spirit box and the demon flees right into it!
[Doc is conserving drama points like mad, he has few left. He throws one spell in support of Marie, at a severe disadvantage since it is the same day as last fight.
All white hats suffer a -1 for the Slothful effect but their movement speed is normal, owing to the amulet each wears. Marie’s movement is halved. This is the major effect of the Sloth demon.
Up until he is face to face with Creed and makes a successful Fear check Cutter is at further -1 and with drama point limiter, owing to the Cindy Channel effect (i.e. an unresolved relationship).
Doc and Cutter both take some minor damage, I seem to recall Cutter reduces his after the fight by drama point. I allow Doc to halve his with a successful Dex+Doctor check as he picks splinters out.]
Scene: Abandoned rail shed
Theme: Until you come back to me
Cutter slides his revolver up out of sight on a girder. That’s the last item on the list. The sedan has been torched, along with masks, gloves, M16 and axes. Nothing to tie them back to the crime scene, unless they are grabbed and swabs taken off their clothes. So new threads will be needed.
This has taken them close to the ranger station, so they decide a safe haven and a night’s sleep are worth the risk. Trailing Doc’s Plymouth, Cutter’s battered old Ford van rolls away. Riding clean with a clear conscience. Only, Cutter has in mind to pay a visit to a certain Queen of the Night Desk, and he plans to phone Cleo too.
[2xp for completing the task of finishing off this demoniac. Perhaps Vic ought to have a bonus drama point or xp for doing something that he kept threatening to do – kill his uncle! But I don’t want to encourage Vic to actually follow through on everyone he threatens to kill.]
Scene: DeNaRes ranger station
Theme: Trouble Man
Most of the rangers are right there in the common room, enjoying a quiet Halloween night. The Prof says things aren’t like to blow up, so he’s headed up to Shaker Lakes with Benny Li.
The white hats have some good news and some bad. Cutter coaxes the rangers up to the lookout deck away from possible listening devices and the white hats explain. There’s general agreement that the watch will still need to resume until the Sisterhood are out of business. Captain Kelly, having had a chance to size up Marie, caresses her nape – or alternatively gets a good handful of hair, depending on how you looked at it – and suggests she get her something more fit for the weather. They head below.
Cutter heads to the phone and calls Cleo. Apologizes for being busy this last short while, but things should be clear soon.
“Well now – if you ain’t so busy tomorrow…” Cleo begins and Cutter’s heart sinks.
Seems as how there’s a Socialist Workers’ Party Cleo aims to have the sistahood and some of the brothers, including some ex-Panthers, out supporting. Day after tomorrow is Election day!
Cutter excuses himself with a half-promise of helping ‘when it all settles back’ and sets the receiver down feeling low. As usual.
“You knew that’s gonna hit ya!” Vic scolds him as he sees Cutter’s expression.
[Yes, another -1 and no drama point spend taken in to the next fight scene.]
[The white hats now conclude that they ought to stage the Tower Heist as soon as possible and prior to Election Night.]
Scene: the same, later
Theme: Are you man enough?
Marie, discovering they plan to spend the night, drags Doc off early to test the bed, the wall, the floor of Doc’s favorite ritual room, suggests it would be fun to do it on the freezer.
The other white hats get to sleep as best they can. “Man gotta pay the price fo’ supp’n with the devil” Cutter points out.
“I had that an’ so ev’yone else down the strip. Ain’t no sloppy seconds – that sloppy eighty-seconds!” Vic snorts, buries his head under a pillow and drifts off.
[The next section of the session deals with the Bianchi-appointed mission, to heist the Garland from Kinzey Foundation HQ, floor 21 of the Terminal Tower. They still do not know if they mean to actually hand the Garland over but they are committed to heisting it.]
Scene: the same, All Saints Day morning
Theme: Slim Jenkins’ place
Breakfast time finds the white hats descending hungrily on the common room. Gunnarsson has been cooking early, for he has to be getting down the reservoir again, now the rangers know the need to stand watch is still on. Danny Castro is absent now – maybe he was standing watch last night. The young, pinkish State Trooper walks right on in and sets himself down. He seems to have a good relationship with Kelly – she’s quite maternal to him. He gets his thermos flask filled with coffee and jaws about news.
Cutter checks the headlines. Both the Plain Dealer and Call & Post carry the sensational Slaying of local Ward Alderman as the banner story. The Plain Dealer uses slaying, slain very often. The three witnesses attest that masked black men assaulted them and slew the Alderman.
The Statie is more interested in the sports pages. He grumbles about the recent slide in the Spartans’ stats. Cutter and Arby (mentally) face-palm – with no ready supply from T-Bone of course the team would drop away – that was money just waiting to be made! The young trooper checks that Gunnarsson has left and admits the Minnesota Vikings are doing really well. Darn it!
Gray’s Armory is mentioned elsewhere: there’s a swanky ball for the Republicans on Election Night. Some white guy name of Taft is guest of honor. A picture of the opposing Democrat is shown too. He looks like he’s been run in and out of the stable since the Fifties. No mention of Socialist Workers’ Party.
Breakfast over, the white hats roll away as though to Shaker Lakes; swing off to Shaker Station and park; board the Rapid along with many another commuter. All four have sponged off their clothes as best they can.
Scene: Downtown, around City Square
Theme: So you’re leaving
The white hats join the general exodus up out of the Terminal Tower without spending more time looking for obscure entryways up from the terminus. The square is massive, open, peaceful. Huge concrete-casemented spotlights would light the Tower up each night. Arby shivers in the cold November rain. He left his fine jacket back, it being too distinct. Shops are opening and it’s time to find a large men’s outfitter or even better, a department store where an overworked clerk won’t recall any black man no matter how big black and scarred he is. Soon enough all four have new threads, Arby springing for a whole new jacket with different cut and look.
That brings them comfortably to mid-morning and coffee cravings are setting in. They pass up Greasy Joe’s for a respectable sandwich house where the coffee is just as good and drugs aren’t routinely traded.
[They say they are looking around. I ask the best Perception for a roll. Arby and Doc both have 6, and Arby makes the roll.]
Sitting on the side of City Square getting the feel of it, Arby glances north and spots the figure of Charlie Stone heading up some steps into a large grey forbidding-looking building.
“Catch him up!” Cutter exclaims and Arby is off like a greased weasel.
“Charlie!” he hollers and the radio reverend turns, just as he’s about to head through a heavy brass-bound revolving door. Looks enquiringly at Arby.
“What is it, son?”
Arby has no clue but fortunately for all concerned Cutter catches them up. Addressing Charlie Stone respectfully as Mr. Stone he learns that Charlie has come to this Public Library to do some research. On demonic powers and ways to stop them.
It seems this place features rare old reference books from earliest days. There’s some co-ordination, and the upshot is that Doc and Cutter assist Charlie while Arby helps Vic scout the Terminal Tower.
Doc emerges from the research with a whole new ritual that ought to delay elemental attacks; and the beginnings of another one that ought to, if eventually polished up, track magic or perhaps demonic presence across town. Charlie says he’s planning on returning to Cincinnati. They wish this unexpected ally well.
[An xp for gaining this ally and help. Much like last session where a call home triggered an extension, this is simply a result of taking the time and saying they are looking around. The rituals are outside of Doc’s culture so will not be as easy for him as for an equivalent white hat with western occult training, but Doc’s high Occult skill and level of Sorcery still mean he’s the best.]
Vic and Arby return from their scouting and update the other two on their findings over lunch and beyond. It’s good as far as it goes but what’s really needed is a definite plan of where the strong-room is.
Cutter heads away to find a payphone. He gets through to Clive, Cleo’s brother in Planning.
Hours later Clive manages to slip Cutter a copy of the 21st floor refit approved blueprint. He mutters something about Socialist Workers, makes a very under-cover fist, and heads back to finish up the day’s work.
[An xp for using this contact in an appropriate way.]
By the time they walk north a few streets to find a uniform shop to buy janitorial outfits it’s well through the afternoon, and by four p.m. their plans are laid. They return south to the Rapid to go collect the hardware!
We still have some minutes in hand but the players – wisely I think – decide to leave the actual Heist Job for next session. At present the plan is to enter from below where the many disused rail areas provide any number of opportunities, forage some janitorial hardware to conceal various things in, and proceed up. Another, still-viable alternative is to use manholes to enter the east-west utility tunnel to get under the tower near ground level. They have a special piece of hardware to stooge security circuits, Arby’s tools to get past routine locks, pixie dust to fool mystic alarms, amulets to block attacking powers, and a talisman to confuse demonic attention. They do not currently have any major weapons: Doc’s small knife is the extent of their arsenal. Stay tuned!